Dec. 27, 2012 by Matthew Freeman

Using Executive Orders to Move the Agenda

CPR's Rena Steinzor and Amy Sinden have an op-ed in this morning's Baltimore Sun urging President Obama to make aggressive use of Executive Orders leading to regulation action to protect health, safety and the environment.  They write:

Barack Obama's ambitions are clear. He came to office in 2009 on the strength of a far-reaching, progressive agenda that included resurrecting the economy, rebuilding the American middle class, ending one war, winning another, stopping the Bush-era tax giveaways to the rich, fixing the health care system, addressing global warming, ending "Don't ask, don't tell," and more.

Four years on, despite the bitter partisan divide that defines politics in our age, he's made progress on most fronts, to his great credit. But if he is to make further advances on his agenda, odds are he'll need to do it without much help from Congress. Let's face it: If the fiscal cliff battle tells us anything, it's that the spanking congressional Republicans took from voters last month did little to diminish their appetite for confrontation and gridlock. As a result, great legislative achievements don't seem to be in the cards for either party any …

Dec. 21, 2012 by Daniel Farber

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Six months ago, the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, triggering coverage under the Clean Air Act.  On Thursday, the full court denied rehearing to the three-judge panel’s decision.  There were only two dissents, which obviously were hoping to set the stage for a cert. petition to the Supreme Court.  The dissents provide a preview of the kinds of arguments that will be made to the Supreme Court.

One key point is that neither dissent questioned the scientific basis for EPA’s finding.  It is clear that the climate skeptic positions advanced by the state of Texas have no traction even with very conservative judges.

The strongest arguments raised by the dissents involve a technical statutory issue.  The case involves provisions of the Clean Air Act that apply to “any air pollutant.”  The …

Dec. 18, 2012 by Robert Verchick

In October, I wrote about the city of Surat, the diamond-polishing capital of India, and its battle against climate change.  Recently I had the chance to visit another municipality working on adaptation, a place known more for its postage stamp farms and wandering livestock than jewelry and textiles. It’s called Gorakhpur, and is located in the flood-prone state of Uttar Pradesh, near the India-Nepal border.

I first visited Gorakhpur nearly 25 years ago--when I was a long-haired backpacker and Gorakhpur was a muddy stop on the way to Kathmandu. Some things there haven’t changed. The streets are still muddy. Tea stalls and tarpaulin tents still line the streets, illuminated by the blue flames of cook stoves. At my business hotel, electricity was as unreliable as ever, and the telephones still crackled and hissed. Each morning, I would greet a dozen or so cows grazing on …

Dec. 17, 2012 by Thomas McGarity

This post was written by Member Scholar Thomas O. McGarity and Senior Policy Analyst Matt Shudtz.

The Mercatus Center has recently published a report on OSHA that simply rehashes the same old discredited arguments that industry apologists in academia and think tanks have been making for thirty years.  Not surprisingly, they reach the conclusion that voluntary compliance programs and worker education efforts are better uses of OSHA’s limited resources than rulemaking and enforcement.

The report contains no original research, and (with one exception) it relies exclusively on studies finding little or no correlation between OSHA activity and reductions in worker injures. At the same time, the report ignores much of the evidence tending to show OSHA regulations and enforcement are effective.  The simple (and frustrating) fact of the matter is that it is almost impossible to design a study using available occupational injury statistics to measure …

Dec. 14, 2012 by Amy Sinden

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress.

“Election over, administration unleashes new rules,” trumpeted an Associated Press story this week.

What are these newly unleashed rules? Perhaps the big food safety rules that have been stalled for more than a year have gone through? Rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants? Long-awaited rules to protect coal miners’ safety?

Not quite. In fact, the AP strained to come up with just tiny examples: “The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules to update water quality guidelines for beaches and other recreational waters and deal with runoff from logging roads.”

The recreational waters standard was a welcome development, but not particularly consequential or abrupt. EPA was required by law to issue the recreational water standards by 2005; it has issued them now only after being ordered by a court to do so. And as the agency explained in its press …

Dec. 14, 2012 by Holly Doremus

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco has announced that she will leave her post at the end of February. Her letter to NOAA employees, reprinted in the Washington Post, cites the difficulty of maintaining a bi-coastal family life. Dr. Lubchenco, a distinguished marine biologist, has put in four years at the helm of NOAA, as much time as reasonably could be expected.

She was one of President Obama’s earliest nominees, named before his inauguration as part of a “dream team” of distinguished research scientists he brought into high-level government service in partial fulfillment of his inaugural promise to restore science to its rightful place. While that promise remains, in my view, unfulfilled, it hasn’t been for lack of trying on Lubchenco’s part. Of NOAA’s accomplishments during her tenure, the one I attribute most directly to her influence is adoption of a …

Dec. 13, 2012 by Daniel Farber

Cross-posted from Legal Planet.

Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears

Fears that the end of the world is nigh have spread across the world with only days until the end of the Mayan calendar, with doomsday-mongers predicting a cataclysmic end to the history of Earth.

That’s from a British newspaper, the Telegraph, but you only have to Google “Mayan Calendar” to find lots of similar items. There seems to be no basis at all for the idea that the Mayans thought the world would end at this point, let alone that it actually will. But it’s certainly gotten people excited.

Ironically, people seem to be much less excited about climate change. That’s ironic for two reasons. First, it’s at least conceivable that the climate will hit a tipping point with catastrophic (though probably not apocalyptic) consequences. And second, what destroyed the …

Dec. 10, 2012 by Rena Steinzor

After the last of the applause lines has been delivered, and while the crowd that gathered for his historic second inauguration is still filing out of town, President Obama will once again sit at his desk in the Oval Office and begin the tough policy work that will define his second term in office and shape the legacy he will leave behind.

Among the many challenges he'll face over the next four years will be an urgent agenda of addressing critical threats to public health, safety, and the environment that the Administration let languish during the first term. But good luck to him if he decides to attack the problems with legislation. The election made the numbers in both chambers of Congress somewhat more favorable to the President's cause. But it'd take an earth-shattering event or at least another election to get protective legislation …

Dec. 7, 2012 by Elizabeth Grossman

Cross-posted from The Pump Handle.

The good news is that in 2011 there were 53 fewer reported refinery accidents in Louisiana than there were in 2010. The bad news is that the 301 refinery accidents reported to the state in 2011 released nearly 50,000 pounds more air pollutants and nearly 1 million gallons more contaminants to soil and water than did the 354 accidents reported in 2010 – this according to a new report released Monday by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and United Steelworkers. “Our aim is to collaborate with the refineries to solve the problem. Unfortunately that day hasn’t come yet,” said Louisiana Bucket Brigade founding director Anne Rolfes on a call with reporters. “Refinery managers continue to act as if they don’t have an accident problem. Until they face the facts, the oil industry, our economy, our environment and our health will suffer …

Dec. 5, 2012 by Thomas McGarity

The saga of the missing FDA food safety regulations continues with a new government filing in a lawsuit challenging FDA’s failure to promulgate regulations implementing three critical programs that Congress established in the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. 

As I noted in a previous posting, the three sets of regulations are currently bottled up in the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), where they have gathered dust for a year. 

Well before the statutory deadlines, FDA sent OIRA proposed regulations requiring most food processors and manufacturers to come up with hazard analysis at critical control point (HACCP) programs, requiring growers to comply with “science-based” minimum sanitation standards, and for importers to verify that their products were produced under conditions that complied with FDA food safety requirements.  But the deadlines came and went while OIRA sat on the regulations to avoid criticism from …

More on CPR's Work & Scholars.
Dec. 27, 2012

Using Executive Orders to Move the Agenda

Dec. 21, 2012

D.C. Circuit Denies Rehearing in Endangerment Case

Dec. 18, 2012

Sweating the Small Stuff: Indian Villages Plan for Climate Change

Dec. 17, 2012

Mercatus Center OSHA Report Rehashes Discredited Free Market Nostrums

Dec. 14, 2012

AP Says Administration 'Unleashes New Rules;' Mostly Finds Examples of Rules Not Unleashed

Dec. 14, 2012

Jane Lubchenco's Legacy at NOAA

Dec. 13, 2012

Mayans! Apocalypse! Climate Change!